Weather Hall of Fame 2018 Inductees

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Local Museum Names First Weather Hall of Fame Inductees

Aug. 30, 2018 — Three long-time leaders in the weather industry will be the first honorees named to the Weather Hall of Fame, officials with the National Weather Museum and Science Center announced today. Their induction will take place during a banquet on Saturday, October 20 in Norman, Oklahoma.

The Weather Hall of Fame honorees are Jim Cantore, meteorologist with The Weather Channel, in the media category; Dr. Elbert W. (Joe) Friday, Jr., retired director of the NOAA National Weather Service, in the public service category; and Thomas J McNellis Jr., senior manager with Lockheed Martin, in the private sector category.

Banquet tickets and sponsorships are available at As part of the Weather Hall of Fame weekend, the National Weather Museum and Science Center is organizing 5K and 10K races on Sunday, Oct. 21 in Norman. More information and race registration to follow.

Weather Hall of Fame Inductee Bios
Jim Cantore is one of the most recognized faces in weather. Known for his live reports from severe weather events, Cantore embodies the passion and knowledge of The Weather Channel that makes him the weather authority viewers turn to when the forecast turns dire. He has covered every major weather event of the past 30 years, including Hurricanes Katrina and Irene and Superstorm Sandy, solidifying his role and the role of The Weather Channel as the leading source for severe weather coverage. Cantore is well known for his animated, tenacious style, both in the field and in the studio.
As Weather’s storm tracker, Cantore reports tirelessly before, during and after weather events, providing live reports and insights for the network. When not in the field, he covers the latest forecast and weather news on “AMHQ” weekdays from 6 – 9 a.m. ET.
He is also is a frequent contributor to NBC programs such as “Nightly News with Lester Holt” and “TODAY,” as well as for NBC affiliates nationwide and multiple MSNBC shows.
A native of White River Junction, Vermont, Cantore graduated with a bachelor’s degree in meteorology from Lyndon State College, where he returns each year to work with students in the meteorology program. Weather hired Cantore out of college and he first appeared on air in July 1986. He was inducted into the Punxsutawney Weather Discovery Center Hall of Fame in February 2013, and in 2013 he was inducted into the Silver Circle of the National Television Academy of Arts & Sciences Southeast Chapter. In 2014, he was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Elbert W. Friday, Jr. is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Oklahoma. He is a Past President, Fellow, and Honorary Member of the American Meteorological Society, and a Charter Member of the National Weather Association. He has served as the Director of the Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate at the National Academy of Sciences, the Director of NOAA Research, the Director and Deputy Director of the NOAA National Weather Service, and as United States Permanent Representative to the World Meteorological Organization. He completed a 20-year career in the United States Air Force, retiring with rank of Colonel in 1981.
An Oklahoma native, Friday attended the University of Oklahoma, receiving his Bachelor of Science in Engineering Physics in 1961, a Master of Science in Meteorology in 1967, and a Ph.D. in Meteorology in 1969. He served at OU as the Weathernews Chair in Applied Meteorology.
He is the recipient of the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive, the Federal Executive Institute Alumni Association’s Federal Executive of the Year for 1993, and the AMS’s Cleveland Abbe Award. His military awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.

Thomas J. McNellis Jr. was appointed Senior Manager of Advanced Programs Strategy for the Lockheed Martin Rotary and Mission Systems line of business in November 2015. Located in Moorestown, New Jersey, McNellis supports a cross-functional team responsible for identifying and shaping new markets for radar and radio frequency systems, such as DARPA, Office of Naval Research, and MIT-Lincoln Labs. In this role, he is responsible for partnering with the customer community to identify and propose new solutions to solve critical mission needs.
McNellis has worked more than 25 years on advanced RF systems, including radar, electronics warfare and communications and signal processing. In his prior position, he served as Senior Programs Manager responsible for advanced technology development and demonstration for next-generation phased array radar systems.

In 1995 McNellis led a team developing a new “through-the-sensor” technology for the Navy’s premier SPY-1 radar to provide high-fidelity environmental characterization at sea. This lead to his Lockheed team partnering on the National Weather Radar Testbed program with the U.S. Navy, NOAA National Severe Storms Laboratory, the University of Oklahoma, the Federal Aviation Administration and Basic Commerce and Industries to build the $25M phased array National Weather Radar Testbed in Norman. The NWRT was operated by NSSL from 2004 to 2017, advancing the state of the art in tornado detection and warning using adaptive radar scanning, and facilitated research for multi-mission phased array, and assimilation of radar data into forecast models.
A native of Waterbury, Connecticut, McNellis received his Bachelor and Master of Science degrees in Electrical Engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He began his career in 1982 as a radar engineer at Texas Instruments, and came to Moorestown in 1988 where he has held a series of engineering and management assignments including Manager of Advanced Systems Engineering, and Engineering Project Manager for advanced radar programs.

Hawaii’s Volcanic Effects

Hawaii’s Volcanic Effects

By: Chris Michaels

Recently, Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano erupted and sent an ash column 30,000 feet into the air. That’s just under cruising altitude for most airliners and led to many airport delays in the local area. While that is impressive, it likely is not enough to cause any global cooling episode in years to come.In order to impact the earth’s climate, the ash column would have needed to extend into the stratosphere. According to climate scientist, Dr. Michael Mann, the stratosphere is roughly 46,000 feet above ground level. Meaning the ash is currently in the lower troposphere, where clouds, and most of the Earth’s other weather phenomena occur alongside airline flight paths. It is capped by the tropopause at the top which is a border between the troposphere and stratosphere, and can be difficult for particles to cross, since the temperature and density of the atmosphere is different for each layer.

Why would it have to reach the stratosphere to impact the climate? This is where aerosols released during the eruption can float without settling out of the atmosphere and reflect incoming solar radiation. That would, in turn, lead to cooler temperatures on Earth. We saw this happen in the early 1980s, after Mount St. Helens sent an ash column nearly 80,000 feet into the atmosphere.

Summary: Kilauea volcano is unlikely to directly change Earth’s climate on a significant scale due to the height of its major ash plume, which stayed below the level of the stratosphere.



Fewer deaths in the 2018 Tornado Season?

Fewer deaths in the 2018 Tornado Season?

By: Chris Michaels

The United States as a whole is having what National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration calls, “an incredibly quiet tornado season.”

As of June 4, there have been 449 reported tornadoes in the country. Keep in mind that reports are not all confirmed tornadoes, some have not been validated yet, and may never be as reports overlap or there is not enough damage to assess. On average, we normally see 792 tornado reports by this time of the year.

So far this year, there have only been four tornadoes rated EF-3 or higher in the country. On average, there are 37 tornadoes within this range per year in the U.S. Since more than 85 percent of tornado fatalities occur in EF-3 tornadoes or stronger, there have been significantly less fatalities this year than normal as well. Alongside these numbers increased public awareness has also helped lower the number of overall deaths.

It’s always good to have a safety plan and continually keep it up to date. Make sure your family, friends, and co-workers are aware of that plan, whether it be at home or at work. It should always be ready to be put into action should a tornado warning be issued wherever you are, and practice is always recommended for this kind of precaution.


Summary: Low fatalities have been reported up to this point for tornadoes in the United States, due to below average activity this season and increased safety efforts.

The Beginnings of the National Weather Museum & Science Center

The Beginnings of the National Weather Museum & Science Center

The National Weather Museum & Science Center (NWMSC) was established to capture the rich history of Meteorology and related sciences. Originally, the museum was meant to look back at the roots of weather tools and forecasting. However, through discussions, the decision was made to also focus on current weather developments and future plans to better understand our atmosphere. These include better preparation and mitigation of the impact of severe weather, enhanced actionable communication about it, and learning from each of these events.

Douglas Forsyth, then [title/position within NOAA?], volunteered to spearhead the effort to bring the NWMSC to reality. Doug gathered a team of people with similar passion and started three parallel efforts: starting a 501 (c) (3), pulling together artifacts and exhibits for the NWMSC, and making plans for a home for it in Norman.

So how did this growing treasure in Norman, OK, come to be?

It was an output of the Norman Chamber of Commerce Weather Committee. The group started in 2004 and is still active today. The first Weather committee co-chairs were Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier and Warren Qualley. The logic behind the formation of the Weather Committee was two-fold: 1) the large and increasing presence of weather-related activities in Norman (e.g. the University of Oklahoma School of Meteorology, the National Weather Service’s Storm Prediction Center, the National Severe Storms Laboratory, as well as the increasing number of commercial weather-related businesses starting up or relocating to Norman), and 2) the fact that Norman is situated in Tornado Alley, basically smack in the middle of a natural severe storm laboratory, making it an awesome site for weather enthusiasts. There were several ideas that the Weather Committee discussed, including the National Weather Festival, arguably the largest and best (maybe the only?) in the country and world.

While this is only a small glimpse into the NWMSC Several future Blogs will explore more of the rich history of the National Weather Museum & Science Center, so stay tuned!


Social media summary: If you’ve never heard of the National Weather Museum and Science Center, now is a great time to learn! Read about how this amazing museum came to be, the idea behind it, and what it aims to do.  

Space Weather

Space Weather

By: Warren Qualley

Most of us know about meteorology which, according to the Oxford Dictionary (, is defined as: The branch of science concerned with the processes and phenomena of the atmosphere, especially as a means of forecasting the weather. People also know weather which they define as: The state of the atmosphere at a place and time as regards heat, dryness, sunshine, wind, rain, etc. However, what most people don’t know is that there is something called space weather. Oxford Dictionary’s definition of space weather is: Conditions in the region of space close to the earth, especially the presence of electromagnetic radiation and charged particles emitted by the sun, that can affect human activity and technology. 

So how did the “weather” get carried over into “space weather”? The short answer, at least in regard to aviation, can be found on a website from The American Meteorological Society ( which states, in part, the conditions on the Sun and in the solar wind, magnetosphere, ionosphere, and thermosphere that can influence the performance and reliability of space-borne and ground-based technological systems and can endanger human life or health.”

It’s amazing how weather activities outside our atmosphere, can affect us. Even though earth’s weather forecast might seem clear, threats can still be out there. The three main hazards to aviation from space weather include disruption in High Frequency (HF) communications, satellite navigation system errors, and radiation hazards to humans and avionics. Fortunately, there is some predictability to these events. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, CO, monitors solar activity and issues outlooks, forecasts and warnings of events. To mitigate the effects of the three hazards when they are predicted or present, airlines avoid high latitude routes (e.g. cross-polar) and higher altitudes.

Monitoring and predicting space weather is a high priority for the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations body, which establishes the rules for global aviation. The World Meteorological Organization provides scientific input into this process as well, and those involved in all aspects of aviation continue to make flying safer from the effects of space weather.


Social media Summary: Almost all of us have heard of weather, but not everyone knows about space weather! Learn a little bit about the amazing nature of space weather, and how it can impact us here on earth.

Volcanic Ash and Aviation

Volcanic Ash and Aviation

By: Warren Qualley

In 1980, When all four engines on British Airways flight 9 in 1982 shut down, the crew was baffled. They couldn’t quite figure out what had happened. Shortly after the initial shut down, Captain Eric Moody, made the following announcement, which was a masterpiece of understatement: “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain speaking. We have a small problem. All four engines have stopped. We are doing our damnedest to get them going again. I trust you are not in too much distress.” It turns out, that the shutdown was due to volcanic ash from Mount Galunggung. This volcano is about 100 miles southeast of Jakarta, Indonesia. The flight was near 35,000 feet (msl) when this occurred and drifted down to about 13,500 feet (msl) before the crew could re-start the engines. The full story can be found here:

Similar to Galunggung, Sarychev Volcano in Russia’s Kuril Islands is one of hundreds of volcanoes located in what is known as the Ring of Fire, which stretches nearly 25,000 miles around the Pacific Ocean basin. It arcs from near New Zealand through Indonesia, the Philippines and Japan across the North Pacific, the western U.S., Central America and down the west coast of South America. Here’s a link to short video of the 2009 eruption of Sarychev Volcano taken from the International Space Station: The ash is the grayish cloud, with the white clouds made up of water droplets.

The ash from volcanos can fill the sky for miles and can be extremely corrosive. It can damage windows, homes, and as it turns out, aircraft engines! The amazing meteorological effects of volcanic ash are one of the earth’s greatest phenomena’s, but also one of the scariest.

Fortunately, British Airways flight 9 did land safely in Jakarta and there were no injuries, but this event and others like it since underscore the danger of volcanic ash to aircraft. Therefore, countries around the world monitor volcanic activity and issue warnings so that these encounters with ash can be avoided.


Social media Summary: Most of us know about your typical weather, windy, rainy, and sunny, but what some people don’t know is that volcanic ash is also part of meteorology! Learn about volcanic ash and how it can impact normal everyday flights.

Automating Weather Balloons

Automating Weather Balloons

By: Marina Kobasiuk

Weather prediction depends on getting the newest and most accurate data possible, and with satellites around to help, it’s sometimes easy to forget how important local conditions are. This is why the National Weather Service still launches weather balloons on a regular schedule, twice a day, or more if severe conditions are on the way. As the balloons travel with their radiosondes up through the atmosphere they track temperature, humidity, air pressure, and other variables, which all get transmitted back to the ground. 

Doing this across the country allows the full vertical profile of the atmosphere to be observed at specific times. These current conditions inform predictions and future research so it’s vital for a NWS office to perform this well so any changes can be tracked. Wherever the local office is for your region you can bet they do their launches daily, and some offer tours of the experience so anyone from the public can see what this part of weather research entails!

But, human error happens, and many offices where balloons are supposed to be launched from are not pleasant locations to reside in for the long term. Alaska is home to a number of these more remote stations so NOAA is working on an improvement by automating the weather balloon releases. These autolaunchers are being put into place all across Alaska’s stations so they’ll only need to be restocked with materials every twelve days or so, depending on if extra balloons are used to analyse major weather events. Automation is intended to improve the data set Alaska provides to the NWS since fewer launches will be missed and all of them will be timed preciscely by computers, which takes human issues out of the equation. More reliable data will also hopefully lead to more accurate predictions nation wide as systems move inland from the west coast.

For more detailed discussion on the financial and career benefits of this change, NOAA has a full press release on the program, as well as an additional article on 6 benefits to the automation.

Summary: The National weather service is starting to implement automated weather balloon launches in Alaska. It’s a great look into the long term goals of improving data collection!

A look into Hail

A look into Hail

By: Aubrey Urbanowicz

Hail is ice falling from the sky, but hail happens during a thunderstorm, and thunderstorms are much more frequent in the warmer months. Typically larger hail will fall in thunderstorms in the late spring or early summer, that’s when it’s warm enough for storms to form, but there’s still enough cold air above the storm to form hail.

Hail forms in thunderstorms, and it’s typical to see small or pea size hail in a storm. 

But larger hail is considered severe and it can cause damage to homes, cars, livestock, agriculture, and even you!

The National Weather Service classifies hail as severe when it reaches 1 inch in diameter, which is hail about the size of a quarter.

The stronger the updrafts, as warm moist air rising quickly into a storm, the larger a hailstone can grow until it’s heavy enough to fall. Large hail is more common with supercells, which are rotating thunderstorms. That’s because supercells have a really strong rotating updraft.

Falling hail combined with fierce thunderstorm winds can cause severe damage. The bigger the hailstone, the faster it falls, and the more damage it can create.

Golf ball size hail, which is 1.75 inches in diameter, is large enough to put a dent in your car.  

According to the Insurance institute for business and home safety, hail creates about $1 billion dollars in damage a year in crops and property.

The largest hailstone in the U.S. fell in 2010 in South Dakota and was 8 inches in diameter. It also had a circumference of eighteen inches.

The record for the largest hailstone in Vermont is 3.3 inches in diameter, between a baseball and a softball, which fell in July of 2009.

Alabama set a state record for largest hailstone earlier this year. The diameter was 5.38 inches, larger than a grapefruit, and it fell on March 19, 2018.

All photos are from the National weather service. The SD ones are from NWS Aberdeen, and the Alabama hailstone is from NWS Huntsville.


Summary: Severe hail can create $1 billion of damage each year! Learn about some of the largest hailstones and how they form.